(A version of this post was published earlier today in the Philly Clout DNC newsletter. It will be emailed around noon each day next week. Sign up here).
You might've heard that the Democratic National Convention's host committee just launched its "Donkeys Around Town" scavenger hunt involving those 57 fiberglass donkeys set up around the city. The idea is to download an app called "Scavify," find the donkeys, check in via GPS, answer questions and post photos. Ambitious donkey hunters can explore the city and win prizes.
The DNC says on its website that Ed Rendell, the former governor and chair of the DNC host committee, "conceived" the donkey program. But that's not the only thing Fast Eddie conceived. Scavify is co-owned by Rendell's son, Jesse. That part isn't mentioned in the press releases.
"He was aware of our business," Jesse Rendell said of his father when we asked him about the donkey deal on Thursday. He said Angela Val, deputy executive director of the host committee, may have also played a role in selecting Scavify.
Jesse Rendell, who co-founded the Fishtown company, explained to us how Scavify is used for employee training and college orientation, turning relatively mundane stuff into something fun through "gamification." The company has also worked with the World Meeting of Families and Visit Philadelphia. Hey, we like games! Sounds great!
On Thursday, the first day of the donkey scavenger hunt, Scavify already had more than 600 active users on the donkey trail. "I'm very happy with how it's going so far and I'm hopeful this will help us break into the tourism market," Jesse Rendell said.
Fantastic. Now about that contract with the DNC host committee chaired by your father? Jesse Rendell didn't want to discuss the financial details. "I don't feel like I'm in a position to talk about that," he said. Oh. He added, however, that the company is being compensated at a level "identical" to what it would charge other clients.
We also asked host committee spokeswoman Anna Adams-Sarthou about the contract. She said in an email that Scavify was selected "because a number of entities had used it for different scavenger hunt-based activities and the team presented a plan that was easy and fun to use, which was exactly what we were looking for." We like easy! We like fun! By the way, how much is Scavify being paid? Adams-Sarthou also declined to say. But, she said, it is "by no means a high-level contract."
Hmm. Is anyone noticing a pattern here?
What goes up must come down, but when it comes to the DNC, it seems nothing can come out. When we tried to set up an interview with legendary balloon man Treb Heining, our hopes of an uplifting little story were quickly deflated.
"We're not green lighting any interviews with him sorry," Morgan Finkelstein, a spokeswoman for the convention committee, wrote in a text. "Our production team is (very) particular about this kind of stuff and we want to respect them."
Leave it to the convention organizers to try to keep under wraps the details of a balloon drop – the physics of which have been largely understood since Isaac Newton got hit in the head with an apple.
It's a shame because Heining is a full-blown legend. The man has orchestrated balloon displays and drops for Disney World, The Superbowl and several conventions, including Philadelphia's Republican convention in 2000.
Lucky for us, people were a little more down to earth back then. Former Inquirer reporter Mike Vitez talked with Heining 16 years ago for this profile, in which Heining told Vitez, "I've been working hard to push the boundaries of balloons."
(No, Laura Ingraham, you can put your arm down. We said hail, not heil).
Has anyone noticed street artist Kid Hazo's hilarious DNC-themed signs at SEPTA bus stops? Hazo (@kidHazo) tells Clout there are a few around town, including 17th and JFK and 18th and Chestnut.
"With the political climate so intense right now and so much focus on the DNC, I decided to do a silly parody/prank and rebrand the Philly DNC hype in my own way," Hazo said in an email. He said usually his work is "subtle enough to go unnoticed, but if you're paying attention and get the joke you just might be in for a surprise."
Well done, Kid.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of Philadelphia's Democratic Party and the initial cheerleader for bringing the DNC to his hometown this year, has a little advice for members of Congress and their staffers about where to eat while they're in town.
Brady assembled and printed a guide to restaurants all over the city, breaking them down by Italian, steak houses, soul food/southern, seafood, Latin, Asian and others. Naturally, there's a section for cheesesteaks, including the classic tourist spots such as Jim's Steaks on South Street, Tony Luke's on Oregon Avenue, Pat's King of Steaks on Passyunk Avenue and, of course, across the street.... Wait? No Geno's? As in "Pat's and Geno's" -- the cheesesteak tourist traps caring Philadelphians steer visitors away from?
Brady said he called most of the restaurants in his guide, asking them to "show proper respect" to his visiting colleagues.
This isn't the first snub for Geno's, which has drawn praise and ridicule for hanging in its window, "This is America … When ordering please speak English." The Democratic National Committee went on a Brady-organized tour in August 2014, while deciding which city would host the convention. They stopped at Pat's for a steak, skipping Geno's.
Speaking of Brady, he predicts the DNC speakers each night will stick strictly to the script written for them and then loaded into the teleprompter by the campaign for their presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. Brady, no fan of Republican nominee Donald Trump, has only sympathy for the plagiarism scandal that enveloped Melania Trump this week after her speech at the Republican National Convention.
"I feel bad for her," Brady said. "She's a lovely lady. She did a nice job. But they screwed it up. If you can't take care of her, how are you going to take care of the American people?"
Don't expect that from the Clinton crowd, which is known for attention to detail and control that could be called compulsive.
"I'm sure it will be completely scripted," Brady said of the DNC. "They won't let anyone go off script. Which is the right thing to do anyway. Remember, this is a show. This isn't a campaign thing. It's all scripted. You have to do the right thing."
Out in Cleveland, the Pennsylvania GOP delegation attending the Republican National Convention was treated to an 8 a.m. Thursday breakfast address from John Ratzenberger. Who? Ohhhh, you mean Cliff Clavin the mailman from "Cheers."
We've never seen Cliff that early in the day. Does the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel serve flat beer at 8 a.m.? We don't see a mug in this video. That's certainly concerning.
"Trump's nomination, to many (and count me in that number) seems the fulfillment of dystopian predictions that someday empty entertainment values would bury civilized public discourse like a Pacific tsunami, that America could literally amuse itself to death" – Will Bunch, on Donald Trump getting one step closer to the nuclear codes.
Chaka Fattah (reluctantly) resigned from Congress last month after he was convicted on federal corruption charges (and was shamed out of keeping the job until his October sentencing). As a result, he also gave up his superdelegate status at the DNC next week. What a mess. Bad timing, too. During the lead-up to the party's quadrennial celebration of Democratic principles – which presumably do not include Fattah's sins of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering or fraud.
The race to fill Fattah's 2nd Congressional seat is getting even uglier. T. Milton Street Sr., the former state senator, perennial candidate and tax-dodger extraordinaire, is trying to turn voters against Democrat Dwight Evans – a shoe-in to replace Fattah in November's election – by questioning his sexuality.
"Is Congressional candidate DWIGHT EVANS GAY?????" Street, a former state senator and brother of former mayor John Street, wrote in a Facebook rant over the weekend that solicited a string of gay slurs and homophobic comments from his Facebook friends. (Some of the worst comments were later deleted).
Street, who had considered running against Evans but now works as campaign chairman for his Republican challenger James Jones, wrote that God only grants "the sex love" (?) to heterosexual couples and that many voters in the 2nd District believe that's the "law of God."
Eventually, State Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature, weighed in on the discussion, and, as far as we're concerned, ended it.
"So let me wrap my brain around this," Sims wrote. "You are a two timing, scumbag, swindling crook who has stolen money and lied your way through your adult life and you think your ridiculously broken moral compass is somehow 'straighter' than Dwight's?!? Adding delusional to your list of filthy attributes. Shame on you."
We agree. Not a good look, Milt.
Jones apologized to anyone who was offended and said he didn't want Street's Facebook post to be a distraction in the race.
Clout traffic alert: Driving in Center City and South Philly this weekend may be about as easy as getting U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to endorse anyone but himself for president. Park the car. Go for a walk. The weather will be fine -- high 90s, sticky humidity -- perfect for a stroll.
Among the protests planned for Center City Sunday, city permits have been issued for: